Call it a revolution. Businesses like Starbucks and McDonalds are found on almost every street corner in the U.S. and expand throughout the globe to locations such as China and Japan. The Eyrie, founded by Janette Rook, is a store that goes against the grain as it remains un-globalized and is completely based on Michigan-made products.
“This is the kind of store that I’ve wanted to shop at for a while,” Rook said.
The Eyrie, located on 9 E. Cross St. in Ypsilanti, can be easily distinguished by its blue awning and green door. The shop is described on its website as “A gift shop featuring Michigan artisans and sundries in Ypsilanti’s Depot Town.”
Rook, from Ann Arbor, said she found the space while spending time in Depot Town, one of her favorite places. It was then she decided this would be the location of her shop.
“I was down here and it was vacant and it had barbed wire and I looked in the windows and it’s right next to the river,” Rook said. “I mean, the river’s amazing.”
Part of the uniqueness behind The Eyrie is that it offers more than just a collection of Michigan-made products; it also showcases Michigan artists selling their work. Rook strongly believes in supporting local artists and helping to share and expand their business.
“I’m interested in young artists from photography to music,” Rook said. “The only criteria is that I
have to love it.”
The products sold within The Eyrie range from soap bars to photographs and posters. Rook also recently invested in some glass bird feeders and wind chimes.
“[We have] pretty much any kind of media—mixed media, photography, pottery,” Rook said. “I’m not an art expert; I just have to love it.”
But Rook didn’t limit herself to just artists in the Ypsilanti area or common products sold at other Michigan-based stores. She took the extra step to go out and look for Michigan artists on websites like www.Etsy.com.
“Just do a local search,” Rook said. “There’s an app for the iPhone now that brings up people for the local area. Everything just looks so professional. I usually check them out online. If I’m sure I like it, I’ll place an order.”
To add to The Eyrie’s uniqueness, the shop will be featuring an outdoor garden area where customers can purchase seasonal potted plants in the summer. Similarly, in the fall, Rook plans on selling pumpkins.
To emphasize her dedication to supporting local artists and businesses, these plants aren’t just grown in Michigan but the garden beds will be installed by Growing Hope, an organization based in Ypsilanti that encourages growing and maintaining plants for nutritional, economic and beautification reasons.
It is understandable that Rook would be interested in helping out the local community, considering she is a labor union activist, having served as president of the Northwest Airlines (later Delta Air Lines) Association of Flight Attendants and more recently as a broadcast director for Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists. Still, switching from social justice and union activism to business is a big change.
“This is a whole new frontier,” Rook said.
The new experience seems to be the right choice for Rook. On searching for new products to sell, she said, “It’s just fun. It’s like Christmas every day. I’ve met some amazing [and] very creative local people; people who I might have never met.”
The Eyrie is planning to open sometime within the next week. As Rook finishes the final touches on her shop, she encourages local artists at Eastern Michigan University and from the Ypsilanti area to contact her via the website www.TheEyrie.net.
Ultimately, Rook is interested in selling the things she would like to buy in a shop of her own design.
“I’m excited about it,” she said. “It’s funny; I’m 41 and I’m excited again. I feel like I’m in college.